Posts Tagged ‘ Thanksgiving ’

2013 Toyota Rav4 Review, From The Dad’s Perspective

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

3 years.

Dear Jack,

Last Tuesday when the nice man came to take back the Toyota Tundra (which we used for your monster truck road trip in to celebrate your 3rd birthday), he randomly replaced it with a new 2013 Toyota Rav4. I was totally not expecting that!

But, I’ve learned that sometimes in life, it’s just best not to question things…

With that being said, for the past week now, our family has got to drive around in our 3rd Toyota. (The 1st was the Sienna minivan.)

Therefore, I suppose, by default, I am becoming a car reviewer; analyzing cars from the dad’s perspective, as I see how the vehicle works for the whole family, not just the driver.

I will start out by saying this, the Rav4 is definitely my favorite Toyota I have driven so far in my small list of reviews. The Rav4 is a perfect physical and pscyhological fit for me.

At 5’9″, which happens to be about the height of the average American man, I found the vehicle to have the ideal amount of space for me. If I were an SUV, I think it’s safe to say I could very easily be a Rav4.

Small SUVs have always been my personal preference as far as the actual car I drive: My first car was a 1988 Ford Bronco II and my current is a 2004 Honda Element.Basically, I love a good “commuter SUV.” I don’t need a big engine or a lot of power, but I do like a little more cargo room and height that an SUV offers compared to most cars.

Plus, most importantly, getting good gas mileage is very crucial to me. The 2013 Rav4 gets 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway, for an average of 26.

Something else I should point out about the new, 4th generation, 2013 Rav4 is this: It’s feels plenty masculine enough for me. I had always tagged Rav4s as a “girl SUV,” like the Nissan Xterra. (I don’t know why that is, but that’s what I’ve always thought.)

But this newest rendition of the Rav4 looks a lot different than its predecessors, so I want to say “good job” to the people who designed this one. I would very proudly continue driving the Rav4; again, it’s a perfect fit for my lifestyle and personality.

So, what did you, the 3 year-old little boy who is obsessed with cars think about the Rav4?

Well, you said out of the 3 JToyotas (Sienna, Tundra, Rav4), your favorite was actually the Sienna minivan.

You didn’t give me a reason, but I think it’s because the Sienna is “all windows” and you were better able to see all the other cars on the road during the drive to and from school each day.

But of course, you were satisfied simply because of the fact that the Rav4 is an SUV… and that our model has a moon roof. (You love SUVs!)

The Rav4 was our vehicle for Thanksgiving weekend so we definitely had a lot of family fun in it.

Mommy got to drive us to Starbucks on Thanksgiving to buy the newspaper with all the ads in it. She accidently wore your bear hat inside the store and didn’t realize it until she came back to us in the parking lot.

Plus, the Rav4 became the 1st vehicle to transport you “diaper free” to a public place, where you successfully didn’t have an accident. More on that tomorrow; I’m not completely finished talking about the Rav4 yet.

Okay, so, tomorrow the nice man is supposed to pick up the Rav4 and take it back to Atlanta. We’ll either be back in my Honda Element… or we’ll both be surprised and I’ll end up writing another car review about a different Toyota.

Maybe I’ll do this car reviewing thing enough to where people actually start seeing me as a serious family car reviewer?…





Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.


P.S. Here’s a collection of my Toyota reviews so far; just click on title to read the full story:


Dad Gives 3 Year-Old Son A Monster Truck For Birthday… Sort Of

Nashville Dad Introduces 3 Year-Old Son To Country Music

3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Build-A-Bear

3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Little River Falls, AL

3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Mountain Driving

3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Canyon Land Park

3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Canyon Mouth Park


We’re Ready For A Family Road Trip… Minivan Style!

It’s Officially Cool To Drive A Minivan Now


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What Do Vegans & Vegetarians Eat For Thanksgiving?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

3 years.

Dear Jack,

I’ve noticed that in the 2 years our family has been vegetarian, and for the 9 months that I have been a strict (!) vegan, I have less and less of a desire to talk about it publicly.

While I’m definitely passionate about living this alternative lifestyle, which is often misunderstood and (until recently) poorly represented, I know I have become tired of explaining it to people.

I have found that in an effort to simply answer the curious (and sincere) questions I get from people at work who see me eating my vegan lunch (which I always eat cold because I don’t believe in using microwaves), it becomes difficult to simply explain my lifestyle without making the other person feel like they have to defend themselves.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t want other people to convert to my lifestyle. Instead, I want people to eat what makes them happy. I eat only plants because that makes me happy, but I respect people who don’t eat the way I do… because that’s 98% of the American population.

But I have to get better about communicating this lifestyle to those who ask. I need to be more upbeat about explaining my food choices… but again, only when people ask, because I never want to come across as “preachy.”

So here it goes…

One of the questions I get is, “What do vegans and vegetarians eat for Thanksgiving?”

As the pictures in this letter demonstrate, I suppose we can eat all sorts of things- given that they don’t contain meat (for vegetarians)… or cheese, eggs, milk, insect-based food dyes, or gelatin (for vegans)… or honey or petroleum-based food dyes (for strict vegans, like me).

I think a lot of my challenge in having this conversation with people is to make it clear this lifestyle isn’t about what I can’t have… but instead, all the things I can have.

For Thanksgiving this year, another plant-based family brought over several dishes to combine with ours, to have quite the vegan spread.

Since some at the dinner were vegetarian and not vegan (like you and Mommy), cheese and milk were available, but not included in the ingredient list for the dishes.

Based on what I remember from looking at these pictures, we had salad, green bean casserole, lasagna, lentil loaf, bread, apple cider, hummus and pita chips, and stuffing.

And for dessert… chocolate pie, cranberry pie, and apple crisp. (You were quite excited… so excited, you got serious!)

In an age where Google is king, vegan recipe websites like Oh She Glows make it really convenient for us to find solid meal ideas that are as easy (or as complicated) as Mommy needs them to be.

We didn’t have to go this fancy for Thanksgiving, but it was sort of a fun challenge for our family. I bet next year we’ll just do a salad, veggie lasagna, and chocolate pie.

But at least when people ask me if I had a big Thanksgiving this year, I can honestly say yes.





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Survey Predicts Vegetarian Families Won’t Eat Turkey This Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

23 months.

Imagine gratefully sitting down at the table for a classic American Thanksgiving meal, only to notice the glorious turkey is nowhere in sight.

As strange as it sounds, a survey shows there are around 7 million Americans identifying as vegetarians; meaning this Thanksgiving they will intentionally pass on the traditional turkey, ham, and chicken-infused dressing.

If you happen to be in a room of 100 people right now, look around you: Statistics would predict that 3 of those people are vegetarians; meaning they choose not to eat meat.

Cue the Shell family from Nashville, Tennessee. Every time they walk into a room of 97 people, they become the token vegetarians.

How is it possible to have a Thanksgiving meal without any meat? Doesn’t that somehow defeat the purpose of the feast?

Nick Shell, father to 2 year-old Jack and husband to wife Jill, gives some insight on what will be on their Thanksgiving menu this year:

“We have this awesome recipe for vegetarian meat loaf. I know this sounds weird, but you make it with cottage cheese, bran flakes, French onion soup mix, chopped walnuts, and an onion. You mix it up in a big bowl then bake it in muffin tin in muffin form. It so believably tastes like real meat loaf, I often feel guilty when I eat it.”

While many of the Shell family’s daily typical meals are simple and based around whole wheat pasta, they plan to prepare some of their more special recipes for this Thanksgiving.

To accompany their “meat loaf,” they also plan to indulge in “baked spicy fries” and cucumber sandwiches on Jewish Rye bread. Of course, it goes without saying they will have a salad to start off their vegetarian Thanksgiving feast.

It sounds like the Shell family have their menu figured out for this year, but how would things be different if they were guests at someone else’s dinner instead?

“It’s actually not that big of a deal,” Nick explains. “When you live the extreme lifestyle of ‘no meat’ every day, you’re already accustomed to coming up with a Plan B. A lot of times, it becomes our responsibility to bring our Plan B with us to a dinner. We’ll volunteer to being a dish or two that we know will fill us, and that will also contribute to the meal as a whole, so others can enjoy it too.

For our son Jack, we seem to always be carrying out a bag of Cheerios and pouch of pureed veggies with fruit any time we drive him somewhere anyway. Or he can try what we’re having. So we really don’t have to worry about what to feed him; this lifestyle is all he knows. Even at his daycare, he’s used to being the only kid in class to have a separate vegetarian version of what the other kids are eating.”

But even with a fancy vegetarian selection, does a person truly enjoy their Thanksgiving as much as the other 97% of America? Nick shares his perspective on this:

“Honestly, I never really was a big fan of the Thanksgiving meal. For me, I always felt obligated to eat too much turkey and overcooked vegetables, becoming too lazy to escape whatever VH1 countdown was on TV. But now, as a vegetarian, I can be completely full, yet not feel bogged down. In fact, it’s becoming our tradition to go for a long walk after our Thanksgiving meal. Fresh air and sunlight are basically part of the menu too.”

Of course, vegetarians aren’t really limited when it comes to desserts. Sure, marshmallows and pudding are made from the skin and bones of pigs and cows; but other than that, a vegetarian can enjoy pumpkin pie, homemade cookies, and egg nog with the rest of the crowd.

However, if you are of the majority of America who will be eating turkey this Thanksgiving and the concept of a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal does not intrigue you, then there’s one more thing to be thankful for this year:

Be thankful you’re not a vegetarian.

To see the actual recipes of the menu items Nick Shell mentioned today, check out his Pinterest and click on his page called “Proven Vegetarian Recipes.” Then you can make your very own vegetarian meat loaf out of cottage cheese and bran flakes.


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Thankfulness for My Toddler’s Teacher, Ty

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

One year.

Last week when my son turned a year old, he was lucky enough to have his official birthday cupcake three different times. Therefore, I have three different pictures of the event: one with just our family of three, one with his extended party with friends and family, and one at his daycare, KinderCare.

Jack’s main teacher, Ty, had his classmates sign his birthday crown that she made for him. In case you’re wondering, the way toddlers sign things is by using their thumbprint. I have these pictures hanging up now at my cubicle at work. So while I’m listening to some weirdo on the phone tell me his life story, I can look over and catch a glimpse of what life must be like for my son in Baby Land.

I never have to question whether or not Jack is okay there at his daycare or whether or not he’s been well taken care of. After all, I’m not “that dad” who has to suppress my anxieties about my son when a non-family member is taking care of him.

He is okay. He’s more than fine. In fact, I’m pretty solid in knowing that he’s a smarter little boy because of Ty’s guidance and teaching; as compared to if he was under my care for 40 hours a week instead.

Despite an already impressive book collection at our house, we don’t spend nearly as much time as we’d like reading to Jack. But when we do, it’s very apparent that he is accustomed to being read to because of Ty. He sits there and enjoys the book when we read it to him.

Because of Ty, he now knows how to use his thumb and index finger to pick up pieces of food and bring them to his mouth. This same learned skill has also helped him to turn on the Wii when I’m not looking.

Jack has learned to find confidence and independence through Ty’s guidance. I can tell that he not only thinks the world of her, but that he also respects her.

She was telling me last week that when he starts to get into some trouble or into a mess of some sort, she will say, “Jack… no, no.” Then he starts doing his fake cry. But he is learning boundaries from her.

My wife and I are very thankful for Ty taking care of our tyke. (She creatively found ways to avoid my camera in the midst of writing this post.) It’s sad to think that in the near future he will be moving out of her age/stage group. She has been there to see him learn to walk. But the boy must grow up.

Thank God for good teachers who help our kids along the way when we parents can’t be there for every minute of it.

Unexpected Bonus!

This week I gave Ty a copy of the brand-new book, God’s Promises for the Teacher. It is a new addition to Thomas Nelson’s best-selling God’s Promises series. The book serves as a quick devotional for teachers, using specific motivational Scriptures for 45 different topics including patience, wisdom, peace, and courage.

You guessed it. One lucky reader will win a free copy of God’s Promises for the Teacher to give to a special teacher in their child’s life.

Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to

*Congrats to Wendy P. of Houston, TX on winning this!

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Thanksgiving in July: Tofurky Style

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Eight months.

Every year for Thanksgiving, Vanderbilt University gives a free turkey to all of its employees; unless you’re a vegetarian.  To be clear, my wife and I are not full vegetarians; though the majority of our meals are indeed meatless.

If this makes any sense, our diet reflects a kosher version of the Mediterranean food pyramid.  Needless to say, last November right as our son was about to be born, my wife received her free Tofurky, instead of a regular turkey. However, because he was born so close to Thanksgiving last year, we never cooked our Tofurky.

It has remained in a friend’s freezer for nearly nine months, until this past weekend.  We decided to have a very belated Thanksgiving dinner… with a “turkey” made of tofu.  But that’s not all.  A Tofurky comes with stuffing, gravy, a “jerky wishbone,” and even a chocolate cake dessert.

Since Jack’s 7 o’clock bedtime prevented him from joining the festivities, he instead had some zucchini and pears that my wife prepared for him with our Baby Bullet.  Jack will turn one a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so maybe he will get to try some of the real bird… or some of the fake bird, I should say.

So what was I thankful to God for during our Thanksgiving in July this past weekend?

That both my wife and I were able to return to our employers here in Nashville after an eight month sabbatical which we thought was a permanent move.  Not only that, but the fact that both of us are truly enjoying our jobs with a newfound appreciation.

That we were able to get Jack into a really good daycare which is right down the block from where I work.

That despite my wife’s car breaking down for the 14th time, we didn’t get totally stranded in the process; and that my parents are letting us borrow a car from them until we can get my wife’s car fixed.

I am thankful for friends who are gracious enough to allow my family of three to stay with them for the next couple of months until our renters move out of our condo.

And of course, I am thankful for my wife and son whom I can share a July Thanksgiving meal which includes an eight month old Tofurky.  Thank God for them and all that God has taught me through them so far.

Now that July has passed, I need to get ready for Christmas in August…

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